Welcome to the thirteenth installment of ACTING UP, a Casting Networks column designed to call attention to standout performances in TV/streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature shines a light on how certain performers got to where they are now. Have a peek and then check out these noteworthy performances to help harness your craft.
For lucky 13: Aisling Bea, who portrays Kate Elliot in the easily-binged dark comedy series “Living With Yourself” (streaming on Netflix) and Ana de Armas from the cutting whodunit film “Knives Out,” a role she just received a Golden Globe nomination for in the category of Best Actress in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy. “Knives Out” premiered in theaters nationwide on November 27th.
THE PERFORMER: Aisling Bea
THE SERIES: “Living With Yourself”
From the first moment the undeniably Irish actress Aisling Bea (pronounced Ash-ling) speaks her first words in the refreshingly original “Living With Yourself,” you realize you’re watching someone who insists on not being upstaged by the chronically talented Paul Rudd. (Incidentally, Rudd just received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a TV Series – Musical or Comedy for this role.)
Bea plays Kate Elliot, an authentic call-it-like-I see-it architect who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She’s married to Miles Elliot (Rudd), a depressed, down-on-his-luck dude suffering a midlife crisis as he slowly gets his ass kicked at work. That is, before he gets clued into a secretive $50,000 spa treatment — “a cleanse for the mind, body, and soul” his co-worker promises will change his life. And man, does it: When Miles comes to, literally crawling out of his grave, he realizes that due to an error in processing (of sorts), he’s been cloned, resulting in a way better, more upbeat version of himself. Miles 2.0.
Turns out, the world loves the new Miles a lot more, including Kate (played by Bea), who is confronted with a changed man who sends their relationship to interesting places. In her role as a spouse to dueling Mileses, Bea does a masterful job playing off both versions of her husband, juggling the differences between the two as she goes through her own crisis as a frustrated and confused spouse.
The concept by show creator Timothy Greenberg (formerly a writer/producer on “The Detour” and “The Daily Show”) is incredibly original in a Charlie Kaufman/“Being John Malkovich” way, as he gifts these actors a series of unique roles. But then again, you can be gifted, but you have to deliver—as Bea does, making fresh choices in a comedic arc that plays out as must-see fodder.
In case you’re not sold, you need only watch the dance scene in the series finale, episode eight, that will likely have you back-chirping two times on your Netflix remote because it’s just so damn adorable. It’s not a spoiler per se, more an enticement to watch a series that has a delightful set of original moves.
For most, Bea appears as a fresh, never-before-seen face in “Living With Yourself.” A 35-year-old actress hailing from County Kildare, Ireland, Bea trained at the London Academy for Music and Dramatic Art before getting a break when she won the 2014 British Comedy Award for Best Female TV Comedian.
The London-based Bea also does double duty as a stand-up comic on Netflix’s “The Comedy Lineup” — a talent validated when she became the first woman in 20 years to win the “So You Think You’re Funny?” stand-up competition at Edinburgh Fringe’s Gilded Balloon.
If you can’t get enough of Bea, you’ll be happy to know she also created and stars in the “Fleabag”-esque streamer for Hulu, “This Way Up” (which premiered in August). Bea also made an appearance in Nick Hornby’s much-praised Sundance TV show, “State of the Union.”
THE PERFORMER: Ana de Armas
THE FILM: “Knives Out”
31-year-old de Armas stars in the sharpest role of her career in the recently Golden Globe-nominated whodunit, “Knives Out.” In the role, de Armas plays Latina immigrant Marta Cabrera, a loving caretaker to Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer), an 85-year-old mystery novelist of note and patriarch of a family of entitled, self-serving sycophants. Cabrera also happens to be there when Thrombey dies, which fuels speculation about her potential involvement and motivations as someone in the close-knit family circle.
Not long after she appears on screen, you realize that de Armas is embroiled in a scene-stealing performance that will be her most memorable to date. Not just because her character holds her own as a suspect and target of speculation alongside a family of soon-to-heirs to the family fortune, but because she shines amidst a star-studded ensemble cast of highly accomplished actors such as Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, and Chris Evans.
Her character also has one of the more endearing character quirks ever penned into a script: the inability to lie without throwing up. It’s a nod to her sincerity, and as the plot thickens, de Armas delves deeper into her nuanced performance as she gets pulled in several ways, one of which has you questioning her motives in a way that leaves you uncertain whether she’s a victim of a bigger plot — or a skilled storyteller with ulterior motives à la Verbal Kint in whodunit Hall of Famer, “The Usual Suspects.” Regardless of the reason, you can’t stop watching de Armas in “Knives Out” from writer/director Rian Johnson (“Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi” and “Looper”), it quickly becomes clear that you’re watching the dimpled Cuban star arrive before your very eyes.
If you see de Armas in this role and think to yourself that you’d really love to see her in more, you won’t have to wait long. The actress is poised for her big Hollywood close-up: De Armas has no less than five movies slated to come out in 2020.
From being a Bond Girl in the next installment of the spy thriller franchise, “No Time to Die” (April 2020) alongside Daniel Craig yet again to landing her American accent to have more fun as “Blonde” girl Norma Jean in the upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic, de Armas is fast becoming an “it girl,” a reality only solidified by her recent Golden Globe nomination for “Knives Out.”
If you’re thinking, wait… I already know de Armas from somewhere, you probably do if you saw her sexy turn as an android enmeshed in a holographic threesome with Ryan Gosling in “Blade Runner 2049” or as the oblivious wife of a hard-up massage therapist cum arms dealer Miles Teller in “War Dogs” (2016).
She also starred alongside Robert De Niro in “Hands of Stone” (2016) and tortured Keanu Reeves in a memorable role in the little-seen film “Knock Knock” (2015).
Not a bad run so far the young actress who started studying acting at the National Theatre School of Havana at age 14 before moving to Spain to continue her work in TV and film. In 2014, she moved to Los Angeles, where the film roles started coming and haven’t stopped since.